To foster the evolution of financial planning as a widely accepted and understood profession, NAPFA announced Tuesday that, starting Jan. 1, it will only accept the CFP designation for anyone applying to become NAPFA-registered planners

“It’s really not a big departure from what we’ve done in the past,” NAPFA’s Chair Lauren Locker said in an interview. “The bigger issue here is that the CFP Board and the FPA are taking that first step in trying to make financial planning a real profession. I think we’re all in agreement that let’s all start with the CFP desgination.”

NAPFA’s National Board recognized that the profession needed to rally around a singular professional designation in the same way the public trusts that professionals with CPA, MD, or JD marks are meeting education, training and ethics requirements, the association said in a statement.

Choosing a single designation is important to providing clarity for consumers, according to Locker, in an environment where the public is bombarded by an alphabet soup of designations that only professionals can be expected to understand.

“NAPFA’s decision to support the broader recognition of a single, defining designation for the financial planning community just makes sense,” Locker also said. “Less confusion means more consumer confidence, and the CFP® designation hits the mark as a strong, baseline standard.”

Both NAPFA and the CFP boards require that all planners put the client first and hold themselves to a fiduciary standard. The CFP Board’s standards for becoming a CFP certificant are stringent, as is the ongoing, comprehensive review structure to ensure that all certificants are meeting the educational, experience, ethics, and disciplinary requirements of the mark, NAPFA’s statement said.

NAPFA’s board members came to the decision after a two-week open comment period during which current members and affiliates were asked for their input. The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of supporting the CFP® designation as the baseline educational standard for NAPFA membership, according to the association.

“NAPFA has been a strong strategic partner with CFP Board in advocating policies in support of competent and ethical financial planning,” Kevin Keller, CFP Board’s CEO, said in a statement. “NAPFA’s endorsement of the CFP certification as the standard for financial planning will provide consumers with a clear, strong and unified message.”